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Monday, 18 June 2012
Page: 6837

Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (12:01): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

As we now understand from the report into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, which was tabled earlier this morning, the public is ready to do the right thing and remove discrimination from our marriage laws. Sixty-four per cent of the people who responded to the survey conducted by the committee supported this bill, and over a quarter of a million people responded to the survey, the biggest ever response for a House of Representatives inquiry.

The Australian population has moved on. The Australian population is relaxed about someone marrying the person that they love. But we should support this bill not just because it is popular but because it is right. Love is a powerful force. Love knows no boundaries. It knows no limits. And love knows when it has found its partner. There have been many attempts throughout history to limit love, and all have failed. As we move further into the 21st century, I am confident that attempts to limit love will fail yet again and that full marriage equality will become a reality.

It is important, not just because we can no longer continue to discriminate against people just because of who they love it is also important because who are we in parliament to tell people in this country that the person they love is not someone they can celebrate their love with in front of their friends and in front of their families simply because of their sexuality? That ultimately is the issue. The arguments against this bill ultimately come down to an argument against same-sex-attracted people themselves and their relationships.

It is more than just preserving people's individual rights, though. It is more than giving effect to what the Australian public wants. It is also sending a very, very important message, from this parliament out to the community, that we believe that love is equal. As we speak, there is no doubt a boy in a country town who is working out who he is attracted to; there is a girl at high school who is wanting to invite her partner to the school formal and has been told she cannot do it because her partner is a girl. When we have same-sex-attracted people in this country more than four times as likely to commit suicide and when we know that increases the further out that you get from the cities and into the rural and country areas, then we have an obligation in parliament to send a message to every member of the Australian community that you are valued, and that your love and the person that you choose to spend your life with are just as valuable and just as respected as anyone else's. We need to end the situation where we say that in Australia there are two classes of people and some have greater rights than others. It is time for the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to get out of the way and allow history to take its course and for parliament to give effect to the will of the Australian people. Unfortunately, we have a situation where one side of the parliament, the Labor Party, has a policy in favour of equal marriage but their members are not obliged to vote for it. Given that, and given that we have the Prime Minister, with a group of MPs, opposing change, to see reform in this parliament we are now going to be reliant on coalition members of goodwill. I know that there are members of the coalition who support this change, but we are in the situation where Labor members are able to have a free vote and the coalition, the party of freedom of choice and the party that is, supposedly, about giving its MPs the right to vote as they wish, is restricting its members from voting according to their conscience. This is the party that says that individuals should be able to do as they choose, so long as it does not harm someone else, and that freedom of choice should be paramount. It seems that stops at someone's door and you are not allowed to marry the person that you love.

I hope that we see reform in this parliament. I will not be pushing this bill to a vote quickly, because at the moment that would fail, but I am confident that in this parliament we can see reform if the Leader of the Opposition allows a conscience vote.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Rishworth ): Is the motion seconded?

Mr Murphy: In order to allow the debate to proceed I second the bill and reserve my right to speak.